A Sydney mother trapped in Lebanon and facing adultery charges raised by her husband has been disowned by her family and friends in Australia.
Mahassen Issa, 29, was due to return home to her two children, aged six and nine, when she was charged with adultery over the weekend. She had flown to Lebanon to visit her new partner Mohammed Awick.
“I have been accused of a crime from an ex-spouse seeking revenge on me and my partner. My entire family has turned their backs on me as well as my relatives and friends,’’ Ms Issa told Fairfax Media.
It is understood the charges were triggered when her husband, Bassem Abou Lokmeh, registered their Australian marriage in Lebanon two weeks ago.
Mr Abou Lokmeh's family released images purporting to show Ms Issa and Mr Awick were married in the past three weeks.
Ms Issa told Fairfax Media the images were of a commitment service, not a marriage.
Ms Issa, who was born in Sydney and works as a primary school tutor in Greenacre, says she met Mr Awick while on holiday in Lebanon. She says she took the trip to escape from a messy divorce from her husband.
Austrailan divorce proceedings require separation of at least a year.
Ms Issa claims she separated from her husband in September 2013 but continued to live in the same house. He claims they were together until April this year.
The court order prohibiting Ms Issa, under the name Mahassen Abou Lokmeh, from leaving Lebanon was issued on July 24. It was issued by the Lebanese Office of General Security, a department common to many Arabic countries that manages domestic issues.
The document also says Ms Issa must report to the Tripoli office of general administration every week. She is understood to be staying in the coastal city.
The exact charges she is facing are unclear. Ms Issa told Fairfax Media she is facing adultery charges. Her husband's family told the Daily Mail website in Australia they also include bigamy charges. Both charges can result in jail time.
Her Australian husband's family have told Australian journalists they believe "she's getting what she deserves".
Her own family have disowned her.
Her brother Ahmed told Network Ten he had tried to control the situation as much as he could and was unmoved by his sister's panic. He claimed he had advised against pursuing her new relationship.
"We have disowned her," her mother Nala told Network Ten on Thursday. "She's not part of our family, full stop."
Ahmed told Maquarie Radio on Thursday that his sister "deserved what she gets" as she had not followed instructions and "wronged the system".
"I have no support from any outside party to assist me and my partner and I am trying my very best to come back home safely," Ms Issa told Fairfax Media.
The former couple's children are living with their father in western Sydney. An entry on Mr Abou Lokmeh's Facebook page on July 8 asks his friends: "Is it halal for a married women to get remarried while she is still married". Halal means permissable under Islamic law.
He then made an entry on July 18: "The game start now ,action".
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman confirmed to Fairfax Media it was providing assistance to an Australian woman in Lebanon but declined to comment further, including whether or not Ms Issa was also Lebanese citizen.
Minerva Naser-Eddine, a lecturer at the Australian National University's Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, told Fairfax Media it was likely Ms Issa was a Lebanese citizen.
“Within Lebanon there is a civil legal code which everyone needs to clearly abide by, and then there are religious courts that exist for each group in Lebanon. She is probably being charged by an Islamic court,” Dr Naser-Eddine said.
"Her citizenship will play a role in how the local authorities and courts treat her."
Ms Issa, who has not confirmed whether she has Lebanese citizenship, told Fairfax Media she would face court in Tripoli on Thursday.